...from the beginning.
The Great Basin is a tough, healthy place for honey bees, where they still share blossoms with bumblebees and other native pollinators. Away from hostile mainstream US agriculture and resulting crises, organic methods produce much-appreciated local honey, at times made precious by drought.
A first principle of organic honey bees is that of wild creatures foraging upon native plants, though as well a disciplined effort is made to maintain them on accurate 4.9mm honeycombs as a method of invasive mite control, to make their equipment from wholesome wax and wood, and to negotiate in good faith the niceties of queenright. Certainly, watered ranch crops of alfalfa and clover add considerable honey, but unattended native plants are the essential diversity for honey bee nutrition.
The 2014 summer was dry and native plants sparse, most honey bee colonies came to a standstill or fell into decline, honey production was cut below half and in brood chambers the onset of malnutrition was apparent as nectars and pollens failed.
In bold contrast, three big rainstorms of old-time pre-drought proportions transformed the summer of 2015 into a steady procession of native plant blossoms, illustrating grandly what is possible, enabling lands and pollinators alike to recover for at least the moment.
The babel of climate talk and recurring weather-threats to honey bee survival motivate a desire to take climate science apart to see how it works, to see where tossed-out numbers come from and what they mean and why. The question is about adaptation. Adapt to what, exactly?
Wherever curiosity led, study followed. A sketch is made of unfolding climate change in this region by arranging the pieces logically. The conclusion must be, drought cometh. With that as a premise, uncertainty itself acquires definition: uncertain as to when and how much, but not what. And knowing what, starts a plan.
Define climate as average weather over the past decade. Define natural variability as ordinary weather that is above or below average. Recognize that weather is chaos: it is not random or boundless, but follows laws of Nature continuously through realms of possibilities; our difficulty with weather prediction is that we cannot capture it mathematically, famously storied as the butterfly effect. Using skills, we do make sense of chaos.
Numerical climate models calculate from sets of initial conditions, step-wise through time, endless states of weather chaos, and then graph the variability and average for us to see and ponder. These tuned supercomputer programs closely track historical climate, before projecting hotter decades ahead. As temperature increases, the ups and downs of natural variability become more extreme - referred to as amplified natural variability.
The general projection, therefore, has been and is for now that long-existing weather patterns will intensify; dry seasons and places become drier, wet seasons and places become floods; frequently reported in world news. With reasoned confidence, general projections, combined with western US climate research, may be applied locally.
As Earth warms, 2014 drought - this extreme - will become normal. At the same time, 2015 rain - this extreme - will become even more extreme, extremely rare, and if it comes it is a gift, having no other meaning.
So the climate will dry and the average will resemble 2014 after a while. But natural variability, amplified by Earth-warming, does not stop. A year like 2020, say, will be extreme dry and then it too is normal, surely it will rain, but wet 2015 fades into dust, as extreme rain contains less and less water.
Of all that was learned, one supercomputer calculation stands out: we are commited: Earth will warm as fast it is or faster, breaking records, for another 30 years just to catch up with what we have already done.
Chaos is why the weather of climate change is not uniform, instead it arrives, perhaps extremely, in the swirl and eddies of momentous turbulent flow, in constant motion; now giving, now taking; unfinished - always the chance of good times or bad.
In the chaotic give and take, the honey bees will demonstrate adaptation. Learning from them and knowing what to look for causes more sketches - of habitat, equipment designs and efficient methods of beekeeping.
Thank you for being here. From the honey bees, too.
A key phrase in the content of this page is - unattended native plants are the essential diversity for honey bee nutrition.
Time was, beekeeping was about honey bees. Seems lately, much about habitat.
It is not far-fetched to think of apiaries as sanctuaries. If this is to be, then native plants cannot go unattended.